It was supposed to be easy! A simple, repeatable approach to marketing that supercharged your lead generation — all for the low-low cost of the time, energy, and effort it took for you to update your website.
But inbound marketing expectations don’t always match the cold harsh reality of today’s digital marketing landscape.
You expected to follow a simple four-step plan:
Step 1: Write blogs and other content
Step 2: Hide that content behind a form
Step 3: Watch with satisfaction as the internet leads clamor to download your content
Step 4: Follow up with the ocean of leads that love you and are totally ready to buy from you!
But the reality of the situation is:
You wrote the damn content
Created the damn form
No one filled it out
OR worse, you got a bunch of crappy, unqualified leads who downloaded your ebook and never wanted to hear from you again
To put it in very blunt terms: Your inbound leads are trash, and you’re not sure where you went wrong.
What is a 'trashy' inbound marketing lead anyway?
To put it simply, a trashy inbound marketing lead is a lead you have no shot at closing or converting into an actual customer.
These leads might be “fluffy” or top-of-funnel.
Fluffy leads are the internet equivalent of a window shopper on Sunset Boulevard. Someone who loves to look around and browse your products. They might show some initial interest, but ultimately, they’re never going to be a major buyer.
If you’re in the services industry, a trashy lead might be that lead that turns into a bad-fit client — if they ever buy at all. They seem qualified at the start, but if and when they do convert, they become a nightmare to deal with and ultimately churn within six months.
Bottom line: If a lead isn’t a real business prospect and doesn’t have the potential to turn into an ideal customer, they’re not much use to you or your sales team.
And if your inbound marketing strategy isn’t driving traffic, (qualified) leads, and sales, something is definitely wrong with your approach.
5 reasons why your inbound leads trashy
Liz Murphy, content strategist and owner of Buona Volpe, may be able to give you the little nugget of truth that’s missing in your inbound marketing mix.
She defines inbound marketing as “a digital marketing strategy in which a business organically earns the attention of their ideal buyers at different stages of their purchasing journey.”
In case the bold/italics/underlined font wasn’t enough of a hint, the key word in that definition is “earns."
Earning an ideal buyer’s attention (and trust) is the name of the digital marketing game.
From a digital marketing perspective, earning attention means driving traffic to your website. Once that prospect has found your website, you need to build trust with your visitor so that they wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else to purchase your product, good, or service.
But... to start applying this approach to your inbound marketing efforts, you first need to understand why your current leads suck and what you can do to fix it.
1. You’re jumping straight to the bottom of the funnel
Spoiler alert: Most inbound leads aren’t looking for a hard sell.
They’re real people on the internet doing research to avoid talking to a salesperson. So take that into consideration when crafting your inbound experience.
If your inbound lead is still in the research phase of their big purchase, don’t rush the process! Create content to aid their movement through the buyer’s journey.
Educate them so that when they do reach out, they're doing so because they want to. Because they're ready to talk to someone and buy, not because they need answers to questions that could have been tackled through content.
As your sales team learns to take a slightly more gentle approach, they’ll soon realize that inbound, educational content is the best way to help these top-of-funnel leads self-discover that your solution is the perfect fit for their pain points.
Remember: you’re trying to earn (and more importantly maintain) their attention. What better way to keep them engaged than by answering all of their questions via carefully curated content before they truly enter the sales conversation?
And yes, that is the best place to start — but you can't stop there.
Initially, you'll want to create content for prospects who are farther along their journeys as, in theory, they'll be easier to close, but once you've got this covered, target those folks earlier in their journeys and start nurturing them.
2. You have no idea how to describe your 'ideal customer'
Sometimes your leads may not be good because you don’t fully understand your ideal customer; what they want, think, and are concerned about.
This is another instance where it’s not the lead’s fault that they’re not a good fit for your business, but your fault for not understanding who you should be selling to in the first place.
If you don’t know who your ideal customer is, it’s time to break out that whiteboard and start defining who this potential buyer is.
Ask yourself: what are their pain points, what are their goals, and how can my business help them achieve those goals?
Once you have those traits defined, it’s much easier to produce content that attracts that audience and converts qualified leads.
3. Your content doesn’t address the challenges of your ideal customer
Once you understand your ideal customer, you need to ask yourself: Does my current inbound content actually address their needs? Am I tackling what they need to know to feel comfortable making a purchase?
If you can’t confidently say that your inbound content is actually addressing these challenges, that might be why your lead quality stinks. You’re not using the right bait!
Go back to the drawing board, ideally during a revenue team meeting (more on that shortly) and ensure that all of the inbound content you produce is meeting these essential needs.
The best way to ensure you’re not missing out on some crucial concerns is to start collecting common questions that your sales team encounters in the early stages of the sales process.
I hear it all the time: “These inbound leads aren’t ready for sales! They’re not even sure what they’re looking for!”
Fluffy leads aren’t a sign of failure. They’re a sign that you (and your inbound content) have more work to do to get in front of the right eyeballs.
Attracting the right audience means understanding where your most qualified leads hang out on the internet. Rather than waiting for those leads to find your website, sometimes you need to help them along by meeting them where they’re at.
When I worked at a former HRTech SaaS startup in the early 2010s, I figured out pretty quickly that HR professionals loved consuming content on Twitter and LinkedIn. The best way to generate brand awareness for my company was to jump into the conversation and be really proactive in those spaces.
So I logged on for weekly Twitter chats hosted by TalentCulture and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and joined some key groups on LinkedIn.
By sharing some helpful tips and relevant content through these other mediums, I made personal connections and helped these qualified leads discover my website.
So, get creative. Pay attention to where your customers actually are and meet them there with content they want to see.
5. Your content creation process has no input from the sales team (or from customers)
If you’re wondering: “How can I tell if my inbound content is engineered to drive qualified leads?” You really should be asking yourself: “When was the last time my sales and marketing team got together to talk about content?” or "When was the last time I interviewed a customer?"
In order to produce inbound content that really drives qualified leads, sales and marketing need to be fully aligned.
This goes beyond the sales reps sending over a basic list of commonly asked questions. You need to build a true partnership between these two departments.
If you cut the sales team out of the content creation process, you’ll inevitably end up with fluffy, watered-down content that’s not addressing the core needs of the customer, which inevitably produces fully, unqualified leads.
6. You're not focused on building trust
All in all, all of these tips come back to one thing — building your prospect's trust in you.
No one wants to do business or give their money away to someone they don't trust to deliver on their promises. This you need to prove to prospects that you know what you're talking about; that you'll meet their expectations for value and performance.
Your marketing can do this. All of the content and experiences you create should be done so with trust in mind.
Inbound marketing can drive traffic, leads, and sales – if you put in the work
If you’ve been suffering from a serious case of trashy inbound leads, you finally know the fix!
Step 1: Do the necessary legwork to define your ideal buyer and figure out where those qualified prospects are hanging out on the internet.
Step 2: Write revenue-driving inbound content with input from both marketing and sales. Without input from sales and customers, you’ll end up with watered-down content that only produces fluffy, unqualified prospects.
Step 3: Use that newly updated inbound content throughout the entire customer journey to earn and maintain the interest of top-of-funnel leads that have the potential to turn into serious buyers.
With these simple steps in mind, you too can drive high-quality traffic, leads, and sales with your inbound content.